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Charles Mingus - Voices of Jazz
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: voices jazz charles mingus word life production new quality entertainment

One of the most important figures in twentieth century American music, Charles Mingus was a virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader and composer. Born on a military base in Nogales, Arizona in 1922 and raised in Watts, California, his earliest musical influences came from the church– choir and group singing– and from “hearing Duke Ellington over the radio when [he] was eight years old.” He studied double bass and composition in a formal way (five years with H. Rheinshagen, principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic, and compositional techniques with the legendary Lloyd Reese) while absorbing vernacular music from the great jazz masters, first-hand. His early professional experience, in the 40’s, found him touring with bands like Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Lionel Hampton.

Eventually he settled in New York where he played and recorded with the leading musicians of the 1950’s– Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington himself. One of the few bassists to do so, Mingus quickly developed as a leader of musicians. He was also an accomplished pianist who could have made a career playing that instrument. By the mid-50’s he had formed his own publishing and recording companies to protect and document his growing repertoire of original music. He also founded the “Jazz Workshop,” a group which enabled young composers to have their new works performed in concert and on recordings.

Mingus soon found himself at the forefront of the avant-garde. His recordings bear witness to the extraordinarily creative body of work that followed. They include: Pithecanthropus Erectus, The Clown, Tijuana Moods, Mingus Dynasty, Mingus Ah Um, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Cumbia and Jazz Fusion, Let My Children Hear Music. He recorded over a hundred albums and wrote over three hundred scores.
Although he wrote his first concert piece, “Half-Mast Inhibition,” when he was seventeen years old, it was not recorded until twenty years later by a 22-piece orchestra with Gunther Schuller conducting. It was the presentation of “Revelations” which combined jazz and classical idioms, at the 1955 Brandeis Festival of the Creative Arts, that established him as one of the foremost jazz composers of his day.

In 1971 Mingus was awarded the Slee Chair of Music and spent a semester teaching composition at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In the same year his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, was published by Knopf. In 1972 it appeared in a Bantam paperback and was reissued after his death, in 1980, by Viking/Penguin and again by Pantheon Books, in 1991. In 1972 he also re-signed with Columbia Records. His music was performed frequently by ballet companies, and Alvin Ailey choreographed an hour program called “The Mingus Dances” during a 1972 collaboration with the Robert Joffrey Ballet Company.

He toured extensively throughout Europe, Japan, Canada, South America and the United States until the end of 1977 when he was diagnosed as having a rare nerve disease, Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis. He was confined to a wheelchair, and although he was no longer able to write music on paper or compose at the piano, his last works were sung into a tape recorder.

From the 1960’s until his death in 1979 at age 56, Mingus remained in the forefront of American music. When asked to comment on his accomplishments, Mingus said that his abilities as a bassist were the result of hard work but that his talent for composition came from God.

Mingus received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Smithsonian Institute, and the Guggenheim Foundation (two grants). He also received an honorary degree from Brandeis and an award from Yale University. At a memorial following Mingus’ death, Steve Schlesinger of the Guggenheim Foundation commented that Mingus was one of the few artists who received two grants and added: “I look forward to the day when we can transcend labels like jazz and acknowledge Charles Mingus as the major American composer that he is.” The New Yorker wrote: “For sheer melodic and rhythmic and structural originality, his compositions may equal anything written in western music in the twentieth century.”

He died in Mexico on January 5, 1979, and his wife, Sue Graham Mingus, scattered his ashes in the Ganges River in India. Both New York City and Washington, D.C. honored him posthumously with a “Charles Mingus Day.”

After his death, the National Endowment for the Arts provided grants for a Mingus foundation created by Sue Mingus called “Let My Children Hear Music” which catalogued all of Mingus’ works. The microfilms of these works were then given to the Music Division of the New York Public Library where they are currently available for study and scholarship – a first for jazz.  Sue Mingus has founded three working repertory bands called the Mingus Dynasty, Mingus Orchestra, and the Mingus Big Band, which continue to perform his music. Biographies of Charles Mingus include Mingus by Brian Priestley, Mingus/Mingus by Janet Coleman and Al Young, Myself When I Am Real by Gene Santoro, and Tonight at Noon, a memoir by Sue Mingus.

Mingus’ masterwork, “Epitaph,” a composition which is more than 4000 measures long and which requires two hours to perform, was discovered during the cataloguing process. With the help of a grant from the Ford Foundation, the score and instrumental parts were copied, and the piece itself was premiered by a 30-piece orchestra, conducted by Gunther Schuller, in a concert produced by Sue Mingus at Alice Tully Hall on June 3, 1989, ten years after Mingus’ death.

The New Yorker wrote that “Epitaph” represents the first advance in jazz composition since Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown, and Beige,” which was written in 1943. The New York Times said it ranked with the “most memorable jazz events of the decade.” Convinced that it would never be performed in his lifetime, Mingus called his work “Epitaph,” declaring that he wrote it “for my tombstone.”

The Library of Congress purchased the Charles Mingus Collection, a major acquisition, in 1993; this included autographed manuscripts, photographs, literary manuscripts, correspondence, and tape recordings of interviews, broadcasts, recording sessions, and Mingus composing at the piano.

Sue Mingus has published a number of educational books through Hal Leonard Publishing, including Charles Mingus: More Than a Fake Book, Charles Mingus: More Than a Play-Along, Charles Mingus: Easy Piano Solos, many big band charts— including the Simply Mingus set of big band music charts– and a Mingus guitar book.

Reprinted in part from More than a Fake Book © 1991 Jazz Workshop, Inc.

Links to Additional Biographical and Historical Information on the Web

Library of Congress
An index to the holdings of the Charles Mingus Collection, Music Division of the Library of Congress.
http://www.loc.gov/performingarts/encyclopedia/collections/mingus.html

Wikipedia entry

 

Ornette Coleman on Voices of Jazz
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: ornette coleman voices jazz word life production new quality entertainment

The father of the controversial free jazz movement, and a saxophonist and composer who became one of the prime innovators in jazz and modern music.

One of the most important (and controversial) innovators of the jazz avant-garde, Ornette Coleman gained both loyal followers and lifelong detractors when he seemed to burst on the scene in 1959 fully formed. Although he, and Don Cherry in his original quartet, played opening and closing melodies together, their solos dispensed altogether with chordal improvisation and harmony, instead playing quite freely off of the mood of the theme. Coleman's tone (which purposely wavered in pitch) rattled some listeners, and his solos were emotional and followed their own logic. In time, his approach would be quite influential, and the quartet's early records still sound advanced many decades later.

Unfortunately, Coleman's early development was not documented. Originally inspired by Charlie Parker, he started playing alto at 14 and tenor two years later. His early experiences were in R&B bands in Texas, including those of Red Connors and Pee Wee Crayton, but his attempts to play in an original style were consistently met with hostility both by audiences and fellow musicians. Coleman moved to Los Angeles in the early '50s, where he worked as an elevator operator while studying music books. He met kindred spirits along the way in Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, Bobby Bradford, Charles Moffett, and Billy Higgins, but it was not until 1958 (after many unsuccessful attempts to sit in with top L.A. musicians) that Coleman had a nucleus of musicians who could play his music. He appeared as part of Paul Bley's quintet for a short time at the Hillcrest Club (which is documented on live records), and recorded two very interesting albums for Contemporary. With the assistance of John Lewis, Coleman and Cherry attended the Lenox School of Jazz in 1959, and had an extended stay at the Five Spot in New York. This engagement alerted the jazz world toward the radical new music, and each night the audience was filled with curious musicians who alternately labeled Coleman a genius or a fraud.

The Shape of Jazz to Come

During 1959-1961, beginning with The Shape of Jazz to Come, Coleman recorded a series of classic and startling quartet albums for Atlantic. With Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, or Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Billy Higgins or Ed Blackwell on drums, Coleman created music that would greatly affect most of the other advanced improvisers of the 1960s, including John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, and the free jazz players of the mid-'60s. One set, a nearly 40-minute jam called Free Jazz (which other than a few brief themes was basically a pulse-driven group free improvisation) had Coleman, Cherry, Haden, LaFaro, Higgins, Blackwell, Dolphy, and Freddie Hubbard forming a double quartet.

In 1962, Coleman, feeling that he was worth much more money than the clubs and his label were paying him, surprised the jazz world by retiring for a period. He took up trumpet and violin (playing the latter as if it were a drum), and in 1965 he recorded a few brilliant sets on all his instruments with a particularly strong trio featuring bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett. Later in the decade, Coleman had a quartet with the very complementary tenor Dewey Redman, Haden, and either Blackwell or his young son Denardo Coleman on drums. In addition, Coleman wrote some atonal and wholly composed classical works for chamber groups, and had a few reunions with Don Cherry.

 

 

In the early '70s, Coleman entered the second half of his career. He formed a "double quartet" comprised of two guitars, two electric bassists, two drummers, and his own alto. The group, called Prime Time, featured dense, noisy, and often witty ensembles in which all of the musicians are supposed to have an equal role, but the leader's alto always ended up standing out. He now called his music harmolodics (symbolizing the equal importance of harmony, melody, and rhythm), although free funk (combining together loose funk rhythms and free improvising) probably fits better; among his sidemen in Prime Time were drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, in addition to his son Denardo. Prime Time was a major (if somewhat unacknowledged) influence on the M-Base music of Steve Coleman and Greg Osby. Pat Metheny (a lifelong Ornette admirer) collaborated with Coleman on the intense Song X, Jerry Garcia played third guitar on one recording, and Coleman had irregular reunions with his original quartet members in the 1980s.

Coleman was signed to Verve in the '90s and recorded sparingly as the 21st century began, appearing on Joe Henry's Scar in 2000 and on single tracks on Lou Reed's Raven and Eddy Grant's Hearts & Diamonds, both released in 2002. He also released the live album Sound Grammar on his own label of the same name in 2006; the album won a Pulitzer Prize for Music the following year. In 2007 he was also honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Coleman died of cardiac arrest in Manhattan on June 11, 2015 at the age of 85. He had remained true to his highly original vision throughout his career and, although often considered controversial, was an obvious giant of jazz.

Biography by Scott Yanow

Source: AllMusic

Thelious Monk Junior (1917 - 1982) Pianist and composer
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: thelious monk jr voices jazz musi word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Thelonious Monk is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time and one of first creators of modern jazz.

Thelonious Monk is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time and one of first creators of modern jazz and bebop. For much of his career, Monk played with small groups at Milton's Playhouse. Many of his compositions have become jazz standards, including "Well, You Needn't," "Blue Monk" and "Round Midnight." His spares and angular music had a levity and playfulness to it.

Musician. Thelonious Monk was born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. When he was just four, his parents, Barbara and Thelonious, Sr., moved to New York City, where he would spend the next five decades of his life.

 

Monk began studying classical piano when he was eleven but had already shown some aptitude for the instrument. "I learned how to read before I took lessons," he later recalled. "You know, watching my sister practice her lessons over her shoulder." By the time Monk was thirteen, he had won the weekly amateur competition at the Apollo Theater so many times that the management banned him from re-entering the contest.

 

At age seventeen, Monk dropped out of the esteemed Stuyvesant High School to pursue his music career. He toured with the so-called "Texas Warhorse," an evangelist and faith healer, before assembling a quartet of his own. Although it was typical to play for a big band at this time, Monk preferred a more intimate work dynamic that would allow him to experiment with his sound.

 

In 1941, Monk began working at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, where he joined the house band and helped develop the school of jazz known as bebop. Alongside Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, he explored the fast, jarring, and often improvised styles that would later become synonymous with modern jazz.

 

Thelonious Monk's first known recording was made in 1944, when he worked as a member of Coleman Hawkins's quartet. Monk didn't record under his own name, however, until 1947, when he played as the leader of a sextet session for Blue Note.

 

Monk made a total of five Blue Note recordings between 1947 and 1952, including "Criss Cross" and "Evidence." These are generally regarded as the first works characteristic of Monk's unique jazz style, which embraced percussive playing, unusual repetitions and dissonant sounds. As Monk saw it, "The piano ain't got no wrong notes!" Though widespread recognition was still years away, Monk had already earned the regard of his peers as well as several important critics.

In 1947, Monk married Nellie Smith, his longtime sweetheart. They later had two children, whom they named after Monk's parents, Thelonious and Barbara. In 1952, Monk signed a contract with Prestige Records, which yielded pieces like "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "Bags' Groove." The latter, which he recorded with Miles Davis in 1954, is sometimes said to be his finest piano solo ever.

Because Monk's work continued to be largely overlooked by jazz fans at large, Prestige sold his contract to Riverside Records in 1955. There, he attempted to make his first two recordings more widely accessible, but this effort was poorly received by critics.

Not content to pander ineffectively to a nonexistent audience, Monk turned a page with his 1956 album, Brilliant Corners, which is usually considered to be his first true masterpiece. The album's title track made a splash with its innovative, technically demanding, and extremely complex sound, which had to be edited together from many separate takes. With the release of two more Riverside masterworks, Thelonious Himself and Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Monk finally received the acclaim he deserved.

In 1957, the Thelonious Monk Quartet, which included John Coltrane, began performing regularly at the Five Spot in New York. Enjoying huge success, they went on to tour the United States and even make some appearances in Europe. By 1962, Monk was so popular that he was given a contract with Columbia Records, a decidedly more mainstream label than Riverside. In 1964, Monk became one of four jazz musicians ever to grace the cover of Time Magazine.

The years that followed included several overseas tours, but by the early 1970s, Monk was ready to retire from the limelight; save for his 1971 recordings at Black Lion Records and the occasional appearance at the Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall, Monk spent his final years living quietly in seclusion. After battling serious illness for several years, he passed away from a stroke in 1982. He has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry, and featured on a United States postage stamp.

As a pioneering performer who managed to slip almost invisibly through the jazz community during the first half of his career, Monk is exactly the type of figure who invites rumor and exaggeration. The image the public has been left with is that of a demanding, eccentric recluse with an inborn gift for piano. The real person was more complex. "People don't think of Thelonious as Mr. Mom," his son points out, recalling his father changing diapers, "but I clearly saw him do the Mr. Mom thing, big-time."

Whatever Thelonious was to the media, it's clear what his legacy will be to jazz music: that of a true originator. Monk probably said it best when he insisted that a "genius is one who is most like himself."

Source: Biography.com

Jazz Legend - Cab Calloway
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: voices jazz legend cab calloway word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Singer Cab Calloway became a star with his performances at the Cotton Club and his song "Minnie the Moocher" (1931). He also appeared on stage and in films.

Singer and bandleader Cab Calloway was born in Rochester, New York, in 1907. He learned the art of scat singing before landing a regular gig at Harlem's famous Cotton Club. Following the enormous success of his song "Minnie the Moocher" (1931), Calloway became one of the most popular entertainers of the 1930s and '40s. He appeared on stage and in films before his death in 1994, at age 86, in Hockessin, Delaware.

Born Cabell Calloway III on December 25, 1907, in Rochester, New York, Cab Calloway's charm and vibrancy helped him become a noted singer and bandleader. He grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, where he first started singing, and where his lifelong love of visiting racetracks took hold. A move to Chicago, Illinois, saw Calloway begin to study law at Crane College (now Malcolm X College), but his focus always remained on music.

While performing at Chicago's Sunset Club, Calloway met Louis Armstrong, who tutored him in the art of scat singing (using nonsensical sounds to improvise melodies). In 1928, Calloway took over the leadership of his own band, the Alabamians. Ready for the next step in his career, he headed to New York the following year.

In 1930, Calloway got a gig at Harlem's famed Cotton Club. Soon, as the bandleader of Cab Calloway and his Orchestra, he became a regular performer at the popular nightspot. Calloway hit the big time with "Minnie the Moocher" (1931), a No. 1 song that sold more than one million copies. The tune's famous call-and-response "hi-de-hi-de-ho" chorus—improvised when he couldn't recall a lyric—became Calloway's signature phrase for the rest of his career.

With other hits that included "Moon Glow" (1934), "The Jumpin' Jive" (1939) and "Blues in the Night" (1941), as well as appearances on radio, Calloway was one of the most successful performers of the era. During the 1930s and 1940s, he appeared in such films as The Big Broadcast (1932), The Singing Kid (1936) and Stormy Weather (1943). In addition to music, Calloway influenced the public with books such as 1944's The New Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary: Language of Jive, which offered definitions for terms like "in the groove" and "zoot suit."

Calloway and his orchestra had successful tours in Canada, Europe and across the United States, traveling in private train cars when they visited the South in order to escape some of the hardships of segregation. With his enticing voice, energetic onstage moves and dapper white tuxedos, Calloway was the star attraction. However, the group's musical talent was just as impressive, partly because the salaries Calloway offered were second only to Duke Ellington's. The standout musicians Calloway performed with include saxophonist Chu Berry, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Cozy Cole.

In 1948, as the public had stopped flocking to big bands, Calloway switched to working with a six-member group. Beginning in 1952, he spent two years in the cast of a revival of the musical Porgy and Bess. In that show, he portrayed Sportin' Life, a character Calloway himself had reportedly inspired George Gershwin to create. Calloway took other onstage roles over the years, including the male lead in a 1967 production of Hello Dolly!, whose all-black cast also featured Pearl Bailey.

Calloway introduced himself to new fans by appearing on Sesame Street and in Janet Jackson's 1990 music video for "Alright," and shared his life story in an autobiography, Of Minnie the Moocher and Me (1976). He also made bigger screen appearances, most notably in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers. During the film, Calloway put on his trademark white tie and tails and performed "Minnie the Moocher" once again.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton presented Calloway with a National Medal of the Arts. Calloway's later years were spent in White Plains, New York, until he had a stroke in June 1994. He then moved to a nursing home in Hockessin, Delaware, where he died on November 18, 1994, at the age of 86.

Source: Biography.com

Jelly Roll Morton - Voices of Jazz
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: jelly roll morton voices jazz word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Jelly Roll Morton was an American pianist and songwriter best known for influencing the formation of modern day jazz during the 1920s.

Born on October 20, 1890 (some sources say 1885), in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jelly Roll Morton cut his teeth as a pianist in his hometown's bordellos. An early innovator in the jazz genre, he rose to fame as the leader of Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers in the 1920s. A series of interviews for the Library of Congress rekindled interest in his music shortly before his death, on July 10, 1941, in Los Angeles, California.

Early Years

Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe was born on October 20, 1890 (though some sources say 1885), in New Orleans, Louisiana. The son of racially mixed Creole parents—he was a mix of African, French and Spanish—he eventually adopted the last name of his stepfather, Morton.

Morton learned to play piano at age 10, and within a few years he was playing in the red-light district bordellos, where he earned the nickname "Jelly Roll." Blending the styles of ragtime and minstrelsy with dance rhythms, he was at the forefront of a movement that would soon be known as "jazz."

National Star

Morton left home as a teenager and toured the country, earning money as a musician, vaudeville comic, gambler and pimp. Brash and confident, he enjoyed telling people that he had "invented jazz"; while that claim was dubious, he is believed to have been the first jazz musician to put his arrangements to paper, with "Original Jelly Roll Blues" the genre's first published work.

After five years in Los Angeles, Morton moved to Chicago in 1922 and produced his first recordings the following year. Beginning in 1926, he led Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers, a seven- or eight-piece band comprised of musicians who were well-versed in the New Orleans ensemble style. The Red Hot Peppers earned national fame with such hits as "Black Bottom Stomp" and "Smoke-House Blues," their sound and style laying the foundation for the swing movement that would soon become popular. Morton's four-year run with the group marked the pinnacle of his career, as it provided a prominent platform for him to display his immense talents as a composer and a pianist.

Morton moved to New York in 1928, where he recorded such tracks as "Kansas City Stomp" and "Tank Town Bump." Despite making use of homophonically harmonized ensembles and allowing more room for solo improvisation in his music, he remained true to his New Orleans roots, producing music that gradually came to be viewed as old-fashioned within the industry. As a result, Morton fell out of the limelight and struggled to earn a living during the bleak times of the Great Depression.

Late Career, Death and Legacy

Morton was managing a jazz club in Washington, D.C., in the late 1930s when he met folklorist Alan Lomax. Beginning in 1938, Lorax recorded a series of interviews for the Library of Congress in which Morton offered an oral history of the origins of jazz and demonstrated early styles on the piano. The recordings helped rekindle interest in Morton and his music, but poor health prevented him from staging a legitimate comeback, and he died in Los Angeles, California, on July 10, 1941.

Although Morton may not have been the inventor of jazz, he is regarded by fans and experts as one of the art form's great innovators. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, underscoring the far-ranging impact of his influence as a musician.

Source: Biography.com

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